Sunday, 25 September 2011

Passion vs Possession (sounds like the world's worst soap opera)

Yes, I realized too late that I had stumbled upon a learning moment.  Yes, I overreacted and I figured that walking around in a sleep-deprived state for a couple days was enough punishment.  Sadly, (insert higher power of choice here) decided that I hadn't fully figured things out, so my lesson was reinforced by a dose of the campus plague.

Cough.  Hack.  Blah.  I should know better than to try to get away with placing my thumb on the school / sleep scale. At least the cold is fading quickly so I can return to getting ready for the coming week. Wouldn't you know it, group work was at the root of my sniffles ... ok, maybe my over-the-top reaction to one of my partner's e-mails ... but I still blame group work.

So we're discussing evidence in our history class, and I focus in on what I consider the most problematic part of facts - the bias we impart.  More specifically, how do we provide adequate context for an event while allowing our students to form their own opinions.  Now I'm not fooling myself into thinking that I can completely bury my personal bias in a history class; my students will figure out my bias fairly quickly but I'm hoping to find a way to avoid shouting it from the rooftop.  For if I'm not careful, all the serendipitous newspaper articles I find (that tie into a lesson plan) will be from one paper and my sources of choice will tend to exclude social history.  It's not the overt bias that I'm concerned about, it's that habitual, unquestioned and unconscious bias that concerns me.

Add to that any biases uncovered among my students.  Our law class this week happened to deal with two cases where the teacher didn't recognize a student's bias and ended up offending that student.  And I wondered whether as history students, our history class had walked so far down the road of acknowledging and sifting through bias that we no longer recognize that our students will have a far more engaged view of controversial topics.  So I proposed to my partner that we use the Bible as an example.  Acts is one of the few readily accessible written accounts of life in the Eastern Roman Empire.  Also, the nice (or problematic) thing about the Bible is that most people have an ingrained bias in favour of or in opposition to it.  Along with this, I proposed an couple of different exercises dealing with the way the use of context can lead to a bias.

My partner replied that the exercises that I had prepared did not fit the assignment request (she was correct).  She advised that the primary source examples that I had picked did not fall within the standard curriculum (I could debate this).  And finally she gently said that I seemed to be a little hung up on bias and that it wasn't that critical.  By the time that she listed the course offerings in the high school curriculum (after we had read the curriculum for that class), I was seeing 10 shades of red.  I crafted and re-crafted a reply until 3 am trying to avoid the apology style of Kevin Kline in A Fish Called Wanda.

So after a couple of 3 hour sleep nights (the previous caused by my over-preparation for my 15 minute microflop), I ended up with a cold.  And realized that it was my own fault.  I had let a relatively courteous correction lead me to over-react, over-stress ... and over think.  As the title indicates, my passion regarding bias had led me to believe that I possessed the one right approach.  All I can say is that I'm glad that I got this wake-up call now.  I'm fairly sure that somewhere along the way a parent, co-worker or student is going to hit one of my hot buttons while proposing something with which I have difficulty agreeing.  When that happens, I'll have the choice between being right and being healthy.  I just hope that I remember which option to pick when those times come.

1 comment:

  1. Wow - what a realization that you've made here...
    "My passion regarding bias had led me to believe that I possessed the one right approach"...I really resonated with this and your post hit something in me, quite strong really. I too hold some pretty strong passion can sometimes blind me from other perspectives (even when I think they are wrong)...
    BUT...what I did see in this post, is that you are very invested, very passionate and very reflective about education. Kudos to you.
    How will you bring out this kind of passion in your students?